7 Common Exercise Mistakes Women Make

Only doing cardio:

"I don't like to do weights" is something I've heard often in my 6 years as a trainer. The irony is that most women will spend an hour on a treadmill or an elliptical rather that get 10 times the benefit by doing a smart 20 to 30 minute weight training routine. Weight training has a metabolic impact for up to 48 hours after the session unlike cardio which has not been shown in studies to have the same benefits.

Which one looks better in jeans?


"Being afraid of bulking up":

Are you a man and have excessive testosterone in your body? I didn't think so! If anything, women have too much estrogen, making them look like a cushy sofa, quite the opposite of an over tanned body builder. Looking like a muscle magazine cover is just a fairy tale and does not happen to 99% of women. I have only seen a few women in all my years working around gyms who looked like masculine body builders and it seemed like a personal decision (I do live in San Francisco after all). I have been lifting weights of all shapes and sizes for years and still look very feminine as do all my clients who lift weights in our sessions. Believing that weight training makes women bulky is like still thinking that smoking is healthy. Get with the times!

Being afraid of heavy weights:

If you weigh over 100 lbs you inadvertently pick up heavy weights every day by lifting yourself. Since getting into fitness I have always believed that we should at least be able to lift our our own body weight, if not an additional person, especially in a time of emergency. We should all be muscular enough to do a push-up and a pull-up (at least attempt or do an assisted pull-up).

Lifting heavy weights including your own body weight will save time and change your body composition quickly. Muscle takes up less space than fat so if you have more muscle and strength you will look slimmer. We can debate all day about which weighs more, muscle or fat, but who cares about the scale? If you build more muscle than fat you will look better in clothes (and naked) and that is the bottom line! What looks thinner a bag of marshmallows or a chicken leg? I am sure none of you ladies want to look like a bag of marshmallows, right? Muscle mass can decrease by as much as 40% as we age, so get out there and lift some heavy things today!

Endurance athletics:

I don’t think there’s any good benefit that you can get from aerobic training that you can’t get from strength training or anaerobic sprinting, and there are some key negative health effects."

-Charles Poloquin

Most people think that running a marathon is the panacea of fitness but what I see week after week is stressed out endorphin-aholics coming in on their last leg. When running your foot strikes the ground 800 to 1000 times per mile creating approx. 300,000 lbs of force on your knees, hips and back adding to your risk of injury according to NYC celebrity trainer Fred Hahn.

Pick up any running magazine and there will be several articles devoted to injury prevention and rehab. Besides structural damage running is extremely stressful for body and can create excess cortisol production which encourages belly fat to collect like a spare tire around your middle. Our bodies can not tell the difference between life stress and exercise stress because it is all the same to delicate hormonal systems.

Running is the most popular thing to do here in San Francisico besides working all hours and staying up late on the computer or Ipad. Excessive aerobic training (marathons, spinning/cycling, long distance swimming, ect.)creates chronic inflammation from free radical production which leads to elevated insulin and high cortisol (a fat storage hormone) from repeated physiological stress. If it feels like you keep gaining weight when you are eating less and running more it might me time to rethink your exercise routine (and nutrition plan..btw).

3 lbs won't cut it!

"Light weights for many reps":

I can barely type those words without gagging! Tracy Anderson type exercises with light weights for lots of reps is a ridiculous muscle wasting way to workout. I guarantee you that those Hollywood people are starving and that is why they look so skinny, not from raising their arms up above their heads over and over. Why not just pick up something heavy 6-8 times and be done? Why would you want to spend your precious short life lifting your leg up 100 times. I don't have time for that and I am sure you do not either. Fitness expert Charles Poliquin believes men and women should train in the same ways for a toned and strong body. I do not see too many men lifting 3 lb dumbbells...

Working out at 6 am:

I have never had a client who got enough sleep to warrant a 6 am workout. If you go to bed at 9pm, okay you can get up at 6 am to workout. But that is not what I've seen in my many years as a trainer. I had clients at 6 am for 5 years almost 5 days a week (I finally stopped after my thyroid gave out and I gained 20 lbs, hmmm... maybe my body was trying to tell me something?). My clients have tended to go to sleep way too late and slept like crap because they were afraid of sleeping through their alarms and our session.

Getting up at 6 am in the dark is not natural and it messes up our circadian rhythms when we violate the natural cues given by the sun. This pattern disrupts our hormones and causes more stress and which makes our body a fat storing machine. Not sleeping also stimulates hunger hormones making us crave carbs all day. I promise that sleeping until 7 am or 8 am will make you lose more weight than an early morning workout will because getting that extra hour of sleep will do more for fat burning systems than a stressful 6 am workout will.

Over-thinking Exercise:

This is the "paralysis of analysis" that keeps you stuck in your sweatpants. "I do not know what to do in the gym." is a feeble excuse. We all know way more than we want to admit. We all know that pull-ups, push ups, lunges, rows, squats, and lunges are the cornerstone of a good workout but those things are challenging so we flail around like a dead fish pretending we do not know what do. Many women act so afraid of the "THE WEIGHT ROOM" because of all the scary people in there. This is just false fear eroding common sense. Ask any regular at the gym how to do a machine/exercise and they are going to be more than happy to show you. People like showing others how much they know.

Also it may be a good idea to hire a trainer for a few sessions to get the lay of the land. Once you overcome your weight lifting inhibitions and learn your way around a weight room you will never be intimidated again. What I learned about the gym when I was 238 lbs was that everyone was so busy worrying about their own fat butt, big thighs and poochy tummy that they were too busy to notice me. I promise no one is looking at you! If money is an issue, get some videos and do some weights in front of your TV. You could be finished by the time you think of all the reasons you can't get started right now!

Some of the Many benefits of Strength Training:

  • Prevents Osteoporosis/builds bone
  • Strengthens joints without wear and tear
  • Liver works more efficiently
  • Increases speed and power
  • Releases human growth hormone which burns body fat and keeps us young
  • Increases lifespan
  • Improves balance
  • Increases confidence
  • Natural increase in sex drive
  • Clears estrogen/balances hormones
  • Increases insulin sensitivity
  • Increases metabolic rate


Let's Run

Charles Poliquin

Slow Burn Fitness Revolution by Fred Hahn

View Caitlin Weeks' Primal Docs Profile
  • Pingback: Kristine Rudolph » Explore More : October 24th()

  • Steph

    I get all of this, bug what weights would you suggest women start with. I can do maybe 10 pushups and then need to stop.I have never been able to do a pull up even as a child. I thought of start with military press, deltoid, and military press with 5# weights. Also squats without weights and pushups.. Any suggestions.

  • You can start a routine without any weights at all, then work your way up to weights. Just start with 5 lbs weights. Your body weight is the best weight you have to use and its free!

    Also Most gyms have assisted pull up machines so you wont have to pick up your full weight. You can also do an assisted pull up at home with a chair and over door pull up bar. You ideas sound great. Just do two sets of ten pushups with a break in between. Keep working your way up. You can do it! Don't over think it see #7.

- Enter Your Location -
- or -